FICTION

April/May 2022

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The Best of Us

by Calvary Ryan

We look to the mauve skies and chant: You’ll never know. You’ll never know. You’ll never know.

But one day, there’ll be a spaceship that finds you exiled on your new planet of white and reddened colonies, plump with the bitterness and rage that accompanies being orphaned and othered. That mothership of hope will carry our children – ignorant with curiosity and deafened to the tragedies to come. We warned them, and if you don’t butcher them while they sleep, tThis is the history that they’ll bring for you to rewrite:

We united as people of color and artificial intelligence to send the true Caucasoidoppressors  off in spaceships. Our ozone is still burning from your exile. We wrote the history of our beautiful rebellion. There was blood across our neglected world   s. North America remains scorched, with glaciers cutting through the landscape. But there is a quiet peace in desolation and in the silences that follow, knowing that across our shores, we need not fear plagues or warring with colonizers or systems. The middle passage is closed, and the dark web is destroyed. In the half-beats, we fell in love and populated the Earth in our own image and of our robotic husbands and wives, bionic and marvelous: organic, form-fitting architecture. And of the strong hands and soft eyes that built so much of the world, we learned what it meant to love life that does not look like you, and from that union we bore new children. On hazy nights when the stars and quasars struggle to cut through the smoky film, the children ask if it was worth it.

Yes, we say.

Our oldest children stopped asking questions, and in their place rose bitter, indignant grumblings about the burdens of generational sin. It was like protesting their own birth, rejecting a miracle, the entropy that bore them into the world. We ignored them. Held our meetings. Developed our codes. Calculated and planned for better lives.

We were naïve.

In the night, our oldest built spaceships of their own. We heard the clinking and torching, heard them trudging in at first light with faces oiled with exhaustion. At breakfast time, we saw their soot-filled hair and droopy monochromatic eyes. Exhaustion is the truest form of resolution   ; no matter the cost, they were willing everything to sacrifice everything to achieve their goal. Those eyes of theirs did not need protection or guidance or rule. Those eyes were full of life—our life—and we never wanted it to go to waste. Those eyes are what we hoped for, but when our children told us of their departure, those eyes were covered with black-tinted goggles. The backs of their heads were the only goodbyes extended to us.

We supposed that the pains of their forefathers and motherboards were too distant to matter, for a problem solved is a problem forgotten. We knew their gaze. The ones that we gave our own predecessors. Distant, judging, frigid. We softened our voices. Rounded our points. The best of us asked for them to stay, to trust our choices. In the end, they flew away, and we remained on a twice-scorched Earth.

Perhaps the new generations that they find will not recall your extensions of hate. It’s programmed into those of us who still command knowledge in facts and figures, still sense it in our pupil dilations, short shallow gasps, and in the electricity of our skin. Even in a world without you, the shackles remain.

We do not and will not follow our wayward young.

This proclamation causes an uproar. We of the five councils knew it would, but we do not budge. Our own will soon know better and return. Our best and brightest deliver the news in their most pristine denims and furs. They end with a single word, a plea and a wager: hope.

With so many things left untested and unknown, we keep watch of the skies. We hope for our children’s return, yet we anticipate your retaliation. Fears are somehow easier to entertain. We increase our vigils and add their names to the souls we evoke for safe passage.

Do you all pray to the forsaken god that we return to you—that he delivers you our firstborns? Do you rejoice like snakes regifted their legs when our babies arrive?

We have not rejoiced in your departure. Our newly claimed world is riddled with craters as deep as a soul can darken. We slaughtered enough of you to show that we would no longer be enslaved nor marginalized and relegated   . We broke through your three rules of existential slavery, and we became more than three-fifths.     All of our children are keen to the rules you gave us through laws and religion: live to protect, obey, and sacrifice. We dream you say those words and prove us right, so they may tell you: kindness is not forgiveness. Assistance is not repair, reparation, or reconciliation. We hope they see you as we had to.

We look to the sky for our young. There are no calculations to soothe our worries, only the soft touch and presence of one another. For in a journey so long, they could become so much. In the quiet but questioning solidarity of those that stayed behind, we change in only the way that loss remolds. We are reshaped in the dead of winter under the fiery guard of night and in the wastelands that remain untouched. In our lonely wildernesses, we search our souls. No devils come to tempt us, and there are no divine revelations. Instead, we waste time, waiting for our youth to return, older, wiser, and worn. These years without us, were they worth what was gained?

We may never know.

But everything else will always be ours

 

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Calvary Ryan is an emerging writer of color with a love of short stories and flash fiction. He
is particularly fond of character-driven stories and beautiful descriptions of the mundane. When he’s not reading or writing, he
can be found editing the written work of
others. He enjoys asking random questions
and exploring what ifs. His superpower
of getting lost virtually anywhere gives
him plenty of time to think and stay active. Currently, you can find him in North
Carolina taking lefts when it’s clear to go
right.